Spring practice started weeks ago, but it begins Saturday.

What that is exactly is how the 2017 season is shaped and who will be responsible for how it’s shaped. In other words, Alabama coaches begin to determine who will have roles on the this year’s team.

Of course, that’s not to overstate the importance of one scrimmage. It is, after all, just one of three scrimmages in the spring before another three in the fall. But coaches will watch closely to begin to determine which players can figure out things when the coaches aren’t telling them what to do.

“The focus so far has really been on installation, and I think that now we start focusing on allowing the guys to play,” UA head coach Nick Saban said earlier this week. “I talk about this just about every year that coaches are out there telling guys what to do, what formation to get it and how to get in it, what route to run, what coverage adjustment it is?

“But the telling tale is how do these guys go out there and, we have to give them some space to get them ready for the scrimmage to see exactly how they do when nobody’s there sort of looking over their shoulder, making sure they do it right. That takes a little maturity. But that’s the thing we’re looking to do to get them ready for the scrimmage. And when the scrimmage comes, basically I want to see who can do all the fundamentals things well. Who has the toughness? Who’s a good tackler? Who can block people and get movement on the offensive line? Who can hold the point of attack and get off of blocks on defense? It’s not going to be some schematic sort of escapade in what we’re doing.

“It’s going to be more how do we execute the fundamentals at this point and who shows the maturity and capability to do that with any kind of consistency? That’s what we’re going to be looking for Saturday.”

One thing that’s different this spring is that the schedule has allowed a day or more between each spring practice. Meaning players are able to be taught something one day on the practice field, reinforce it in meetings or film work in between practices before going back on the field to perhaps learn something new.

“…(it’s) probably been good for the learning curve, especially for the young players,” Saban said.

Veteran players like left guard Ross Pierschbacher said it’s definitely helped.

“I think them coming in on days we don’t have practice and kind of slowing things down, just really getting in the film room and learning what they did from the last practice, has really helped them,” he said. “So I think a lot of guys are coming in, getting the extra work and we’ve seen the benefits of that for sure.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.